Arthur Russell — “Being It”
This week I graduated from college and I have kept “Being It” by Arthur Russell on repeat, which is the song I’d most want to hear if the world was about to end, too. “Being It” is one of the truly pure songs I’ve heard in my life. As Arthur creates massive, meditative textures of echo and reverb with his cello, I can think of no other word to describe the song but “transcendent.” Many of the lyrics remain undecipherable to me, but near the end of the track, when Arthur sings, “it is only being,” I really feel my existence. I think this song is gentle and hopeful and human and incredibly deep, and I would want to let it all wash over me one more time.
— Jenn Pelly
Spiritualized — “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”
Some deaths deserve theme songs. If I happen to go out in a blaze of outlaw glory — or an apocalyptic rain of hellfire — only Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” will do. But based on what I know about myself, the hospital bed/IV drip/surrounded by family scenario seems far more likely. And, in that case, I’ll want to be elevated.
Jason Pierce, the man behind Spiritualized, has two main obsessions: mortality and transcendence. And yet, it’s not the underlying content of the title track from 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (or, for that matter, the surprisingly poignant Elvis reference) that would draw me back to it. For me, the song is associated with one of my favorite musical memories.
I was 14 years old, on vacation with my parents in North Carolina and behaving terribly. We were hiking in the woods. I had just bought the CD after seeing the video for “Come Together” on MTV’s 120 Minutes. In the midst of some inane temper tantrum, I ran off far ahead of my mom and dad, climbed a boulder, and pressed “play” on my Discman while staring up through the trees at the sun. In retrospect, it was a contrived and bratty moment, but a serene and transporting one nonetheless. As disgusted as my teenage self would be at this admission, that is the place and time I’d most want to revisit at the end.
— Judy Berman